Apple is investigated for discriminating against women in its credit algorithms
Apple Card investigated after several complaints of gender discrimination.
Financial regulators are investigating Apple's new credit card after several customers complained of algorithmic malpractice by offering fewer loans to women.
According to The Verge, the incident began when software developer David Heinemeier Hansson posted his complaint on Twitter announcing that the credit Apple Card offered his partner, Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, was 20 times less than that offered to him.
“My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time. Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does,” Hansson said on Twitter.
Apple has handed the customer experience and their reputation as an inclusive organization over to a biased, sexist algorithm it does not understand, cannot reason with, and is unable to control. When a trillion-dollar company simply accepts the algorithmic overlord like this...
— DHH (@dhh) November 8, 2019
Hansson said Apple customer service responded quickly to his complaints and eventually intervened to raise his wife's credit limit but was told by the same representatives that they could do nothing to change the overall decision of the algorithm.
In addition, Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, the aggrieved person, said in a statement that her great intention to own an Apple Card was due to just the privacy that the card could give her. However, she never came to think that it could be a sexist financial product "that still seems to think women can’t be as successful or creditworthy as men.”
After Hansson's complaints became viral, other Apple Card customers reported similar incidents. Steve Wozniak, a former Apple worker who invented the Apple-1 computer with Steven P. Jobs, responded to Hansson's tweet with a similar complaint.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Wozniak said that many times you don't have control over the growth of algorithms: "We don't have transparency on how these companies set these things up and operate. Algorithms obviously have flaws. A huge number of people would say, 'We love our technology but we are no longer in control’. I think that's the case.”
Today, the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFSNY) is analyzing the criteria used by the Apple Card.
“The department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” said a spokesman for Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the NY DFS. “Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class of people violates New York law.”
For his part, Wozniak closed his interview with Bloomberg stating that the U.S. government is not strong enough on regulatory issues. "Consumers can only be represented by the government because big corporations only represent themselves,” he said.
Apple launched its credit card earlier this year, explaining that it would generate transactions as simply as other Apple products, unlike the confusing world of finance.